The current Republican front-runner for president, Donald Trump, has made it clear that the Environmental Protection Agency is in line for serious cuts if he makes it to the White House. Mr. Trump noted this at several debates, reiterating the substance of what he told Chris Wallace in an interview for Fox News Sunday in late 2015. Talking about the EPA, he said, "What they do is a disgrace. Every week they come out with new regulations. They're making it impossible." Mr. Trump went on to maintain, "We'll be fine with the environment. We can leave a little bit [of regulations], but you can't destroy businesses."
When the electorate hears the sound bite, and Mr. Trump pitting EPA restrictions against business and jobs, it may resonate on the surface...but a deeper look shows that when neighborhoods are impacted by serious pollution threats, they quickly change their minds.
Porter Ranch, California experienced an "aha" moment around the dangers of fracking, methane leaks, and methane storage. Oregon is now coming to grips with what is shaping up to be a crisis of their own.
Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with Rep. Earl Blumenauer, reached out to Gina McCarthy and the EPA via a letter dated February 12, which qualified toxic "hot spots" of air pollution in Portland emanating from facilities producing stained glass. As per the letter, due to a "regulatory loophole," these emissions slipped by the existing standards.
As ongoing stories filed by Rob Davis, the environmental reporter for The Oregonian/Oregon Live relates, the toxins in question didn't exactly slip by. Rather, the stained glass industry lobbied for an exemption.
Now that two specific factories have been targeted as emitting heavy metal toxins including lead, cadmium, and arsenic, the solidly populated vicinities adjacently located are quite concerned. Additionally, there are several schools in the area. Residents, worried about potential cancer risks, are looking into having their urine and blood tested.
On February 22, the Senators and Congressman sent a letter to the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Director for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. They asked for "immediate assistance in responding to the public health risks identified by the discovery of hot spots of dangerously high levels of an airborne heavy metals in Portland, Oregon."
I reached out to Sen. Merkley for a comment. He responded by e-mail:
"As a father who raised two children here in Portland, I understand and share the alarm of many Portland parents about finding these toxins in our community. Every American should be able to count on a safe and healthy environment for their family. I've joined with Senator Wyden and Congressman Blumenauer in pushing for answers, and will keep encouraging our federal regulators such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control to do everything in their power to keep Oregon families safe."
Why do people think that non-regulation of pollution is okay until it impacts them? A number of the article comments responded to the facts with statements that emphasized, "This is just the price we pay for the conveniences of modern life," or that the extent of regulation was invasive.
Ironically, when people are hit with a potential disaster, they want governmental assistance to solve the problem. Voters have to think very seriously about if they want to leave oversight of their safety solely to those operating at the state level.
Their backyard could be next. If elected, will they be able to call on President Trump to clean up the mess?